Welcome to Patterns of Perfection, an in-progress website that aims to catalogue surviving examples from the around 650 embroidery patterns published monthly in the Lady's Magazine; or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex (1770-1832) between the magazine's launch in August 1770 and the end of 1819 when the periodical ceased issuing them.
I hope you enjoy browsing the patterns and using them!
The Lady's Magazine was the first recognisably modern women's magazine. It first grabbed my attention just over two decades ago when I was working on a PhD on dress and the female body in eighteenth-century literature and culture. I spent a happy 3 months reading every essay on dress in the magazine I could find and poring over the periodical's fashion reports and plates. But what I really wanted to write about were its embroidery patterns for women's, men's and children's clothing, accessories and household objects. (I had been an enthusiastic recreational dressmaker and stitcher since the age of nine.) Sadly, I could not find the designs. I knew what each of them was for because descriptions appeared on each issue's contents page. But years of scouring physical copies of the magazine in research libraries up and down the UK yielded only a few surviving examples of the hundreds of patterns that had been produced. They had not been intended for survival. They had been meant to be used, of course.
Fast forward 15 years, and while starting research for a book on the magazine, I unexpectedly acquired a volume that had 6 patterns in it. I posted these online and launched a non-competitive 'Stitch Off' in which people from all over the world made the designs in traditional or modern interpretations. This led, in 2020, to the publication of Jane Austen Embroidery (Pavilion), a cross-over history-cum-craft book I co-wrote with Alison Larkin and which adapts 15 patterns from the magazine for modern needlework projects.
Alongside working on Jane Austen Embroidery and my recently published, open access book on the Lady's Magazine, I have continued by hunt for the patterns, a project generously supported by the Pasold who funded a wonderful research trip. Some of the fruits of my hunting are here on this website. I will be adding more patterns and content in the coming weeks and months.
Do let me know what you think of the site using the contact form or via social media (links below). I'd love to hear if any of you have any patterns that you would like to add to the site and, especially, if you try making any of these yourself.
Oh... and if you are here, you might be interested in the sister site Fashion in the Age of Bridgerton on the magazine's fashion plates.
Happy browsing and stitching!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
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